Tony Ferguson has some serious athletic upside. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
The trend of super athletes becoming fighters is the latest trend in the sport, mimicking dominant competitors in singular disciplines like jiu-jitsu, wrestling and striking.
Each wave had its impact on the game, ranging from emerging tactics to influencing how everyone adapted training to counter the fresh trend. When Mark Coleman decimated the competition with his debut at UFC 10, it brutally reinforced the need for takedown defense and improved striking; the seeming invincibility of merely bringing a decent jiu-jitsu game into the equation was painfully quaint. Later, fighters like Maurice Smith, Wanderlei Silva and Chuck Liddell countered wrestlers’ dominance with refined standup.
Today’s emergence of the super athlete turned mixed martial artist is reminiscent of the phase shifts of those core disciplines and the sway they once held.
At “The Ultimate Fighter 13” Finale on Saturday in Las Vegas, Tony Ferguson needed less than a round to put away Ramsey Nijem and become the UFC’s latest “Ultimate Fighter.” Ferguson was a two-time collegiate All-American wrestler, but he also starred in three sports in high school. He was an outstanding cornerback in football, manning perhaps the most athletic position in all of sports.
With the ascent of UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and proven commodities like welterweight titleholder Georges St. Pierre, the wave of great athletes is the latest to hit MMA’s landscape, forever transforming the game and forcing its competitors to redefine their approach.